Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Talking About Death

After Iggy died, Conan naturally asked about him. Not too frequently (we've got three other cats to distract him) but once in a while he'd say "Where Iggy?" or "Iggy outside?" and I'd simply tell him that Iggy didn't live with us anymore. I was rather proud of this answer, since it is completely factual and doesn't raise any potentially uncomfortable or scary questions about death. Conan would accept this answer and usually change the topic (he's got the attention span of, well, a two-year-old).

Then one weeknight, as I was bustling around trying to get dinner on the table before we all got too cranky to eat, he asked again. Distracted, I blurted "Iggy doesn't live with us anymore, remember? He died." Ooops.

Conan's eyes got wide. You could see the gears turning as he pondered this new revelation. Uh-oh, I thought. This could get ugly. I was envisioning tears, wailing, maybe even nightmares. How can I explain death to a little child? Philosophers, religions, scientists and shamans have been trying to come to an understanding of death for centuries - and they weren't suddenly put on the spot in the middle of dinner.

Then, very seriously, Conan asked "And his tail died too?"
Yes, I said, and his tail too. "And his nose died too?" Yes, and his nose. "And his feets died too?" Yes, those too. We went through all the cat anatomy Conan has words for, and I confirmed that yes, they had all died.

Finally satisfied with body parts, Conan had one further question: "Iggy no eat cat food anymore?" Nope, I confirmed. Iggy doesn't eat cat food anymore.

And with that, Conan was content. Iggy died. All the parts of him died. He doesn't eat. Iggy doesn't live with us anymore, end of story. No crying, no wailing, no existential questions about the nature of life or death.

Someday, years from now, Conan will surely learn more about death and loss, as we all must. But I was really struck by the beauty of his acceptance of it, and the purity of his curiosity. And of course, relieved.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


We apparently have beavers. We haven't seen any beavers; nor have we seen any fallen trees or chewed logs. But what other creature would build a dam this substantial?
Last year we battled some kind of dam critter, but it never really approached this level of engineering, so we had hoped it was just a muskrat. Now I'm thinking maybe it was an inexperienced beaver, and he spent the winter really perfecting his dam building techniques.
This spring's dam is situated in a more critical spot on the stream, and is much higher than anything he attempted last season. We're seeing a real change in the water table around our place, as the spring rains are caught in the swamp and backed up behind this dam.

This is the second time this week that we've dismantled it. As you can see from the below pictures (taken just downstream from the dam site at the bridge), the water level really comes up in the stream once the dam is removed.

That's the same tree in the center of these two shots, the second one was taken about an hour after the dam was removed on Saturday. The water came up about a foot, and looked like it would continue to flow at that level for at least 24 hours before the water level would come down in the wider area.

Notice that I said "looked like it would continue" above. After the dam was removed Saturday afternoon, the critters completely rebuilt it Saturday night. Sunday morning it was as if nothing had ever changed. Not knowing what else to do, we removed it again... although I suspect that tomorrow morning it will have reappeared. I'm not sure what we can do, realistically, to prevent beavers from building dams. I guess the hope is that we can hassle them enough that they will move the dam back into the swamp where it will (hopefully) not back the water right up into our backyard.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Look at this cute little surfer dude! Conan has been taking swimming lessons at the city pool. He's really not a natural water baby, but the lessons are really helping him become more comfortable with getting wet. We've seen a big improvement in bathtime, although he still does NOT like to get his hair washed. He now likes to lie down in the tub and show us how he kicks his feet, which was unheard of before the lessons. He may not be the best swimmer in his class, but he's certainly the most improved!

We are on break between classes right now, but they'll start up again in April. Grandpa Dave has volunteered to take Conan to classes on Monday and Wednesday. Conan is really looking forward to it, and he asks nearly every day if he'll "go swimming at swimming pool today?" When I tell him no, not today, he responds with "Maybe Monday?"

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Kriss' Baby Shower

Yesterday I hosted a baby shower for my friend Kriss here at our house. We had a ton of fun with a great group of people and lots of delicious food. And of course, cake:

Aimee and I went a little overboard making this cake, but it was worth it. We made the fondant flowers and decorations last weekend, as well as giving the cake recipe itself a test run. Bo put his modelling skills to use crafting a duckling, frogs, and bugs for us. Then we stayed up until 12:30 Friday night baking and assembling the layers with the cream cheese frosting and strawberries. Saturday morning we draped the whole thing with the fondant and put on the decorations. Our fondant wasn't perfect, but we were able to cover most of the worst spots with the decor and the whole thing turned out cute as could be. The kids were very excited about it, especially Paloma, who got to help Aimee slice and serve it. Also, it was delicious!

Besides cake and brunch, we played some of the familiar baby shower games: "guess who is in the baby picture" and "don't say the forbidden words." We also had a door prize and a Uteriñata (Uterus shaped piñata) which I made. I've never actually made and filled a piñata before, but it was a lot of fun, and it was a fun and unusual activity for a baby shower.

We also had plain white onsies to decorate, and had planned for a baby bottle race, but ultimately didn't have time for it. Conan would probably have won anyhow, here he is showing off his expertise:

Conan had a great day, lots of playing with friends of all ages. Also lots and lots of sugar - including an unknown number of actual sugar cubes he pilfered from the tea & coffee station.

At about 4:00 in the afternoon the sugar wore off and he promptly fell asleep on the couch, with half a dozen ladies still bustling around giving Kriss a foot spa. He was one tuckered out little guy, and so was I, but it was worth every effort to throw Kriss a great shower. Now we just have to be patient until we get to meet the baby!